A Guide To U/R Delver In Legacy

Andrew Schneider has had a lot of success in Legacy with U/R Delver, most recently making Top 4 at SCG Legacy Open: Cincinnati. See if you should consider playing it at the SCG Legacy Open in New Orleans.

My name is Andrew Schneider, and I live in Atlanta, GA. I’m sure most of you haven’t heard of me before. I’m relatively new to MTG; I started playing around the Mirrodin Besieged release. I played in my first SCG Open Series about a month after getting started. I had an awesome time, and I knew I was hooked. After a few months of only playing in the Standard Opens, I started to look into Legacy. I was afraid of how big the card pool is because I knew I had only seen a very small fraction of the cards you’re allowed to play with, but I figured the best way to learn would be to just jump in.

I decided to start with a Mono-Red Burn list because I knew it was a good choice for someone who was new to the format and, come on, who doesn’t like Lightning Bolt? The SCG Invitational in Charlotte was coming up, and even though I wasn’t qualified, I wanted to get the deck together so I could play in the Legacy Open.

I was at my local store the week before the event when I saw my friend, Anthony Avitollo, playing a deck that changed my Magic career. Anthony was playing a U/R Delver list that he and Adam Prosak had been working on for the SCG Invitational. After watching a few games, I knew that was the deck for me. Coincidentally, Andrew Shrout won SCG Legacy Open: St. Louis the week before the SCG Invitational with his version of U/R Delver.

After looking at these lists and begging the only people I knew who owned Legacy cards, I had a U/R Delver deck ready to go for Sunday. I impressed myself with a Top 32 finish, and I figured out three things: Legacy is really hard, Legacy is really fun, and U/R Delver is really fun. I bought my Volcanic Islands and Force of Wills the next day.

Since that tournament I’ve played in eight Legacy Opens, and U/R Delver was my deck of choice in each one. With three Top 8s and two trophies, I’d say I have a pretty good understanding of the archetype. My most recent success was two weeks ago in Cincinnati.

Card Choices

4 Delver of Secrets and 4 Goblin Guide

These guys are the most efficient one-drops in Legacy, and this deck couldn’t exist without them. The best start this deck can have involves one of them on turn 1. The strategy of this deck is very similar to old Standard where the Delver decks would play a Delver of Secrets on turn 1vand sit on Mana Leak. The only difference is that our counterspells are better and our deck has "eight" Delvers (and burn spells, but we’ll get to that).

3 Grim Lavamancer

He can serve as a worse version of Delver of Secrets or Goblin Guide when you need a clock, but he is much more than that. When you untap with him in play against any creature deck, you are in control of the game. He shoots down Delver of Secrets, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Mother of Runes, Noble Hierarch, Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant, Nettle Sentinel, Snapcaster Mage, Stoneforge Mystic, and many more. Those creatures are everywhere, so having a guy that can kill them for one mana is too good not to play.

4 Snapcaster Mage

I want to draw this card every game. After your opponent deals with your first couple of threats, you’ll be running out of gas. Snapcaster Mage lets you play a two-power creature at the end of their turn that throws a Lightning Bolt at their face. He can also recast a Spell Pierce for the Jace, the Mind Sculptor they were trying to stabilize with. Lots of decks in Legacy make use of Snapcaster Mage, but I like to think that U/R Delver gets the most out of him.

4 Lightning Bolt, 4 Chain Lightning, and 2 Price of Progress

U/R Delver is a burn deck. Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning are the best burn spells Legacy has to offer, and my favorite part about this deck is that our removal spells are also our win conditions. Against a combo deck, a card like Swords to Plowshares is usually dead, but we are able to use Lightning Bolt and Chain Lightning to finish them rather than have them rotting in our hand.

Price of Progress is a card that goes from being amazing to mediocre depending on the metagame, but it’s always good enough for at least two slots. In this metagame full of U/W Control, Price of Progress isn’t at its best as they have a whopping seven basic lands in their deck usually. If you’re new to Legacy that might not sound like a lot, but it is. If three-color decks like BUG Control start to become more popular (which I’m really hoping the printing of Abrupt Decay will make happen), then we’re going to want to up the count of Price of Progress because they usually only have one or two basic lands in their deck.

I get asked a lot of about the card Thunderous Wrath. I think it’s really bad in this deck. Sure, five damage for one mana is an awesome deal, but you give up a lot of consistency for that to happen. Brainstorm’s main job in this deck is to prevent us from flooding. I really don’t want to put more strain on my Brainstorms by having to set up miracles. Don’t even get me started on the hands you have to mulligan because you drew a Thunderous Wrath or two and zero Brainstorm.

3 Force of Will, 3 Spell Pierce, and 2 Daze

People like to be jerks and play unfair things in Legacy. We need to play counterspells to keep them in check. Against any fair deck it would be way better for these to be more burn spells, but we’re playing blue for this very reason. Mono-Red Burn usually loses to decks like Show and Tell, Goblin Charbelcher, Storm, High Tide, etc. (all decks that can kill you within the first three turns of the game).

The blue in our deck gives us a lot of help against these types of strategies. I like the 3/3/2 split I have on the counters currently. Force of Will is awful but a necessary evil, so I wouldn’t recommend the fourth copy in the main if you decide to make any changes. Also, I don’t think Spell Snare fits in this deck because the only two-drop we care about that isn’t hit by Spell Pierce is Tarmogoyf.

4 Brainstorm and 3 Ponder

Legacy is the Brainstorm format. In this deck, its main function is to put two lands back on your deck so they can be shuffled away with a fetchland. It’s also very fun to Brainstorm on turn 2 with the Delver of Secrets trigger on the stack so that you can guarantee it flips. Ponder serves a similar role since we only have to draw the good cards from Ponder thanks to the fetchlands. Brainstorm is the hardest card in the deck to play correctly, not close. As you play Legacy more, you’ll learn this on your own.

12 Fetchlands

We want Brainstorm and Ponder to be as good as possible, and it’s nice to give Grim Lavamancer fuel that isn’t a Snapcaster Mage target.

After watching the replay of coverage from Cincinnati, I noticed that the commentators were having a hard time figuring out my sideboard. This didn’t surprise me because I know it looks odd. I normally get a laugh about the Lava Spikes and an eye roll from the Banefire. I spend a lot of time thinking about this deck, and the majority of that time is spent on the sideboard. I know what I’m doing—promise.

4 Surgical Extraction

Every deck in Legacy has graveyard hate. This is the best choice for this deck because we are playing four Snapcaster Mage, which means the deck kind of has eight graveyard hate spells. Against Dredge, a Surgical Extraction and a Snapcaster Mage is usually enough to get ahead of them.

2 Smelt

I used to play Smash to Smithereens as my artifact destruction spell of choice. The fact that it costs two mana started becoming an issue against Stoneblade. We normally have three lands in play, so when our Smash to Smithereens is met with a Spell Pierce that we can’t pay for we are very dead to their Batterskull or Umezawa’s Jitte. Playing this over Smash does make our matchup against Chalice of the Void decks much worse, but I think it’s worth it.

2 Pyroblast

Show and Tell is blue. Counterbalance is blue. Jace, the Mind Sculptor is blue. Those are three of the best cards in the format, so having a one-mana answer available to us is too good to pass up.

2 Sulfuric Vortex

This card is at an all-time high for how important it is in the sideboard of this deck. It probably needs to go up to a third copy. U/W Control is not an easy matchup, and this card pulls a ton of weight. It’s also very good against Stoneblade because their plan involves them stabilizing with life gain via Batterskull or Umezawa’s Jitte.

1 Force of Will

Same reason it’s good in the main. We need it against the meanie combo decks.

3 Lava Spike

Now we’re getting to the odd ones. This slot used to be three Submerge. I get asked all the time why I don’t have Submerge—my answer is that it doesn’t do anything. Sure, you can get a bad RUG player to shuffle away their Tarmogoyf when they fetch with their irrelevant third land that they shouldn’t have played in the first place. It’s also not the worst when a Maverick player activates their Knight of the Reliquary, but we don’t really need the help in that matchup anyway.

RUG isn’t a good matchup, and Submerge doesn’t help it. Submerge doesn’t equal damage against them because they usually kill all of our guys in anyway. It only buys us a turn. Against them, we need to kill them before our Goblin Guides become awful against their Nimble Mongooses and Tarmogoyfs. One of RUG’s worst matchups is Mono-Red Burn, and I want to try to mimic its game plan as much as possible.

1 Banefire

My roommate, John Person, can be thanked for this one. I was complaining about how rough the U/W Control matchup is and how I wanted a burn spell that gets around Counterbalance. He instantly said Banefire, and everyone in the car laughed. Then I thought about it more, and he was actually right. All the game 3s against U/W Control that I’ve lost came down to them being at five or less life and me being locked out of the game by Counterbalance and Sensei’s Divining Top. A miser Banefire gives me an out to this situation. It might just need to be the third Sulfuric Vortex, but I like knowing I have this in my deck as an out when that situation comes up.

Sideboarding Against the Major Decks

RUG Delver

+3 Lava Spike, -3 Force of Will

We want to kill them as fast as possible. Force of Will is very bad against them because they’re trading with you one for one until they can play a creature that’s better than yours (Tarmogoyf or a threshold Nimble Mongoose). Our best route to victory is sticking a Delver of Secrets or a Grim Lavamancer and protecting them with our Spell Pierces and Dazes while burning their face with our eleven Bolts. Goblin Guide isn’t very good against 4/5 creatures or shrouded 3/3 creatures.

Show and Tell

+2 Pyroblast, +1 Force of Will, -3 Chain Lightning

We want to stick a threat against them on turn 1 and hold up our counters for when they try to cast Show and Tell. It doesn’t matter if they put in Omniscience, Griselbrand, or Emrakul, the Aeons Torn—we die to all of them. We want to side out our sorcery burn because tapping a red mana is one less red open to cast Pyroblast or to pay for their Spell Pierce / Daze.

U/W Control

+2 Sulfuric Vortex, +2 Pyroblast, +1 Banefire (and Smelt if they have Stoneforge), -1 Force of Will, -2 Price of Progress, -1 Ponder, -1 Chain Lightning

We really need to keep Counterbalance off the board in this matchup, so it might be right to leave the third Force of Will in the deck. Our main goal is to get a Sulfuric Vortex to stick and hope we can get enough damage through while it’s clocking both of us. Our counterspells are also good for when they play the inevitable Entreat the Angels as their win condition.


+2 Sulfuric Vortex, +2 Smelt, +3 Lava Spike, – 3 Force of Will, – 2 Spell Pierce, – 2 Daze

This deck plays very fair, and we don’t need our counter spells against them. I like the burn plan in this matchup, and it’s been working for me. Sulfuric Vortex turns off the life gain of Batterskull while simultaneously providing us with a clock. Smelt is for when we don’t draw Sulfuric Vortex or if it gets countered.


+2 Smelt, +3 Lava Spike, -3 Force of Will, -2 Daze

Same reasoning as above except Sulfuric Vortex is bad against a deck with seven ways to get a Qasali Pridemage (Green Sun’s Zenith). Spell Pierce is fine because it hits their planeswalkers, Swords to Plowshares, Sylvan Library, and equipment.


+4 Surgical Extraction, +1 Force of Will, -2 Price of Progress, -1 Chain Lightning, -2 Daze

You want Force of Will and Spell Pierce to hit their enablers (Lion’s Eye Diamond, Careful Study, Putrid Imp, Faithless Looting, and Breakthrough). Daze might need to stay in over some burn as well. Surgical Extraction should usually be pointed at Narcomoeba or Ichorid, but sometimes it’s correct to hit their dredgers. Another good thing to remember is that you can use Grim Lavamancer or Lightning Bolt on your own creature to remove the Bridge from Belows from their graveyard.

Those are the decks I’ve played against most frequently when I’ve played in Legacy Opens, and I like the plans I have against all of them. I hope some of you decide to try U/R Delver out at the next SCG Open Series you play in. You’ll definitely have a good time. If you have any questions, you can leave them in the comments. You can also message me on Twitter @On__The__Grind .

Thanks for reading,
Andrew Schneider